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Review: Joey Molinaro, untitled

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Joey Molinaro
untitled
3.5 stars

If you're looking for inventive, brave, intelligent new music, this is pretty much the stuff. Joey Molinaro, a violinist for the local noise-classical combo Basilica, chose to leave the title to his debut release blank, perhaps because its two sides are so different from each other. The first, "The Inalienable Dreamless," features a solo violin arrangement of the grindcore album by the same name, released in 2000 by the now-defunct Discordance Axis. The second, "We," brings all the resources of Basilica to bear on a fifteen-minute, multi-part composition inspired by Zamyatin's dystopian novel. Both sides offer relentless, aggressive but not quite brutal music, played by Molinaro with a husky tone and nary a hint of vibrato.

Molinaro proves himself quite the foot-stomper during "The Inalienable Dreamless," executing some relatively rapid rhythms that would have to accomplished by, say, step dancing — or at least by multi-tracking, even though the low-fi recordings, rich with room noise, seem to have been laid down live. Lost in translation from the original to Molinaro's arrangement is the intricacy of grindcore, with its rapid-fire drum fills and staccato guitar parts. What's left are a few core phrases and motives from each of the songs, repeated four-to-the-floor, as well as some keening double-stop passages that seem to imitate the screaming vocals associated with the genre. If "The Inalienable Dreamless" gets a little repetitive by the close, this much can be said to Molinaro's credit: His interpretation is a hundred times more interesting than any "Metallica played by a string quartet" album.

"We" is a richer experience, remaining sparse, deliberate and percussive in the style of the first side, but drawing from a wider tonal palette, largely because Molinaro invites the whole band to join him, including guitar, bass and drums. Given that Molinaro points so explicitly to the work's inspiration (Zamyatin's novel), it's hard not to imagine wide-scale industrial destruction when hearing the piece, with each sharp riff and rat-a-tat snare suggesting a factory manufacturing some manner of life-destroying product (guns, killer robots, TVs, Snuggies). "We" is characteristic of much of Basilica's work, which is poised between contemporary classical and metal, in the arena of your Flying Luttenbachers, your John Zorns and other hybrid rock-classical acts that aren't the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And as tends to be the case with tone poems, the story is pretty much incidental — one man's bone-crunching wail is another's skillfully-executed riff or hymn of praise to Allah. But, given that I was listening to "We," the piece, with We, the novel, in mind, I thought it compared favorably to Zappa's "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny," another sparse, abrasive rock-classical work inspired by dystopian literature (in Zappa's case, Kafka's "In the Penal Colony").

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